Five ways Ed Miliband and Labour can keep ex-Lib Dem voters in 2015


1:37 pm - September 27th 2013

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by Andy May

It was a strange feeling watching this week’s Labour conference.  Once a political enemy, I could conceivably be voting for the party in 2015.

I joined the Liberal Democrats over a decade ago, and worked for two MPs. My parents are founder members of the SDP.  I won’t go into my reasons for leaving – these are self-evident. Clegg is the best recruiting sergeant that disaffected centre-left voters Labour could ever want.

Instead let’s concentrate on five things Labour might do to convince the swathe of progressives who voted Lib Dem in 2010. These people hold the key to a Labour victory in 2015. Many of them, like me, are as yet undecided.

I have discounted the obvious… like not privatise the NHS or entrench inequality in education – plus there has been enough on energy already!

Here are five that specifically push Lib Dem buttons:

1. The Economy
Totemic policies such as the introduction of the minimum wage in the early Blair years have been eclipsed in the minds of voters by mismanagement and light touch regulation in the run up to the financial crash.  Ed Balls made a shrewd move towards rehabilitation by announcing he would submit Labour’s spending plans to the Office for Budget Responsibility. But more reassurance will be needed. I want to see the positive role of the state championed without the irresponsible spending and incompetent implementation that came with the Blair era.

2.  Environmental policy
Invest in renewables not fracking; tackle energy inefficiency in homes and vehicles; properly fund the Green Investment bank.  Plenty more where that came from, but with the Lib Dems in government supporting a dash for gas and failing on initiatives such as the Green deal, Miliband has an opportunity to outflank my former party. 

3. Democracy, lobbying and big money in politics.
Miliband is one of the most progressive leaders Labour has ever had on constitutional issues. He deserves more credit than he got for supporting Yes2AV, after fierce opposition from many in his party.  He must support PR in the House of Lords, or local government along with party funding reform and lobbying transparency. This will only get noticed by 5-10% of the electorate, but many will be those all-important ex Lib Dem voters. To achieve this some in Labour will need to understand their party does not have a monopoly on progressive political thought.

4. Housing
Most of my twenty and thirty something friends cannot conceive of a time they could afford a deposit.  200,000 new homes a year by 2020 is welcome – the difficulty will be doing this in a sustainable manner that doesn’t wreck the same communities that would benefit from fresh housing stock.   Frankly anything sounds good compared to the Governments half-baked Help to Buy scheme.

5. Civil Liberties
When Sadiq Khan claims Labour now the party of civil liberties all I can do is think back to 28 days detention, ID cards, illegal rendition… and laugh.  I think it naïve to make such a claim although Sadiq’s personal record is commendable.  Labour need to show they not succumb to scaremongering by the shadowy figures in the home office bureaucracy with clear human rights based framework to privacy and security, rejecting the authoritarian excesses of the last Labour government.

Here’s hoping Ed can do it if Clegg cannot. -his speech certainly warmed the cockles of my heart.

I and other social liberals and democrats would prefer not to be stuck in the political wilderness for the rest of our lives.


Andy May is a communications consultant, and formerly worked in as a constituency organiser for the Liberal Democrats.

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Reader comments


Labour actually supporting PR (even for local elections), and clamping down on appalling things like David Blunkett using Hitler to scare people into censoring the internet would do a lot for pulling social liberals people back.

But I’m not going to vote for a party that’s spouting this kind of thing:
http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=2995

“I want to see the positive role of the state championed without the irresponsible spending and incompetent implementation that came with the Blair era.”

The ‘irresponsible spending’ meme is a myth. The Labour government certainly wasted a lot of money – on war-making, mostly – but the notion that their ‘irresponsible spending’ lead to the deficit/debt situation as it is now is simply a bed of lies (that seems to be what you’re implying with the above – that Labour previously spent recklessly as a matter of policy). Labour voters might take Lib Dems (ex- or otherwise) more seriously were they not reproducing such claptrap.

The positive role of the state in the economy is certainly a laudable thing to champion but it is entirely incompatible with the myth-memes of austerity economics.

3. ex-Labour voter

And he needs to face down Labour’s nuke lovers.

“So, after some genuine consideration and reconsideration, I opted to renew it (Trident). But the contrary decision would not have been stupid.”

Tony Blair in his memoirs pages 635/6.

Pledging to abandon Trident replacement would be a good reason to vote Labour.

I agree with 1 2. 3

“Civil liberties”? From the party that Hazel Blears, David Blunkett, John Reid and… Need I go on?!

Housing is interesting, and the new towns route an important way of moving forward.

If Ed want to garner rural votes, which will be important for many constituencies (and weakens Tory / Lib Dem on others) how about a tax on second homes?

Many places like here in Dorset are made unaffordable by half retired London Lawyers wanting a spare home. This brings in huge costs to the community, is the reason for the closure of schools (we have falling school rolls, against the UK trend). This is another cost to the inequity of wealth in the UK, it is absurd that there are villages where 60% of homes are owned by people who did not bat an eyelid at spending £600,000 on a spare home.

Phillip – I can think of a long list of wasteful Labour projects, from the Child Support Agency, to aborted ID cards schemes, to the NHS computer system.

Or more broadly public sector productivity falling. So any Labour people still claiming that everything was fine and all the money was spent well over the Blair and Brown years are delusional.

Patrick ,that’s 3 members,

There’s also Mcpherson report, Foi, HRA

And the 4 other former labour home secs defended the HRA

7 Andy day ID car were voluntary and they were their to being in line the Bio metric European passports, the data base of that system was adapted by the Tories, so ther was no money lost when the Tories,not Labour scrapped, who knows what good would have come of it ,in cutting crime,

As for NHS databases, how do you know that didnt save lives, if you want to complain about he money spent on the NHS ,feel free to vote Ukip and vote to privatise it, or remember the last Tory days of people dyin gon trolleys in hallways ,due to the cuts,

John – are you aware that the NHS database was scrapped? At the cost of £11.4 billion. After nine years, it never even came into service.

Take your tribal blinkers off. Throwing public money down the toilet instead of investing it wisely is as bad as privatising a service – neither deliver what the patient deserves.

Here is a full list of IT disasters under the last Labour government if you want it:

The discontinuing of the ID cards database actually cost £257 million. Although you are correct in saying the coalition got rid of it – mainly because no-one other than a few authoritarian bureaucrats wanted it.

My compliments to Andy May for a thoughtful piece.

I have to pursue these words in the OP: “When Sadiq Khan claims Labour now the party of civil liberties all I can do is think back to 28 days detention, ID cards, illegal rendition… and laugh.”

Critics have scoughed over LibDem commitments to civil liberties in the current coalition, and it is true that LibDem leadership has been tempted to follow convenience over principles, but the LibDem Party has been defiantly liberal. Within the compromises of coalition, LibDems have allied with Conservative Party liberals to make UK more socially liberal and have challenged knee jerk populism.

When government shit happens, ask whether it would be worse without LibDems.

Labour is late to the liberal society gig. Sadiq Khan trails behind a Conservative, David Davis. Theresa May may be a ‘least worst’ Home Secretary — the Conservative Party hosts many horrors, but few match John Reid.

1990s New Labour appealed to lefty liberals partly because they despised a few years of conservatism, and partly because they perceived New Labour as a road to social liberalism. On the latter, liberals were to be disappointed — the disappointed included many members of the Labour Party.

Never mind all those rational arguments for voting Labour. The thoughtful, rational dimension of politics is no longer cool: populism is in ascendancy once more. David Blunkett used to kick the proverbial populist can along the road in the time of New Labour but the task has now passed on to a younger generation this century.

Insufficient attention is being given to the most potent reason for voting Labour at the next general election.

If Ed Miliband becomes prime minister, Boris Johnson will surely become leader of the Conservative Party, thereby fulfilling the aspiration of so many. Just reflect on the image of Boris addressing the United Nations general assembly or strutting his stuff in the EU Council of Ministers.

@12. Bob B: “Just reflect on the image of Boris addressing the United Nations general assembly or strutting his stuff in the EU Council of Ministers.”

I had that nightmare too. It came shortly after the one about Silvio Berlusconi becoming Prime Minister of Italy for years on end.

Orson Welles was pushing it in that film, when he talked about cuckoo clocks. Or did I fantasise that as well?

Charlieman: “I had that nightmare too. It came shortly after the one about Silvio Berlusconi becoming Prime Minister of Italy for years on end.”

We like to/have to whitewash over memories of the realities of Italian politics. Try the obituary of Giulio Andreotti on the BBC website, which is rather discrete about some details:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22426199

In one trial, Andreotti was convicted of having ordered the murder of a critical journalist, although that was later reversed on appeal. From a NATO perspective, there were real concerns during the 1950s and 1960s about the possible ascendancy of Communist Parties in Italy and France.

Mussolini came to power in Italy with the Fasci in 1922 because Italian politics was in a mess then. Even Adolf credited Mussolini with having pioneered the fascist state. Fascism is the extreme manifestation of populism in politics — “thinking with the blood” and that sort of thing. Symbols, often nostalgic symbols, become more valued than rational analysis.

15. Churm Rincewind

I’m with Charlieman @ 11: “When government shit happens, ask whether it would be worse without LibDems.”

The LibDems are not in power, and I think it’s unreasonable for the original OP to heap blame on Nick Clegg for acceding to policies which otherwise the LibDems would never have supported, in return for concessions on the Conservative side. It’s called Coalition Government.


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